As an artist, sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places. For Kezar, inspiration quite literally struck when he witnessed a woman at a bar punch a man who tried to grope her. This incident served as creative kindling for his latest earworm, “Don’t Touch The Queen.” The music video features real women from all walks of life. Produced by an all-female team helmed by director Sarah Wilson Thacker, the proudly feminist video doesn’t hesitate to recognize women as the badasses they are. Kezar gave us some insight on the behind-the-scenes process of bringing the song to life. Watch “Don’t Touch The Queen” HERE.
Cliché: How did the concept for “Don’t Touch The Queen” come about?
Kezar: It was simple, really. I had hired Sarah Wilson Thacker to direct my first two music videos for me, and I noticed that she’d hired a largely female creative team. When I noted how cool I thought that was, she told me that behind-the-camera entertainment jobs are among the most gender-discriminatory in the world – only 8% of film and TV directors are women! I was playing her a few of my unreleased tracks and she heard “Don’t Touch the Queen” and she felt inspired by it. In fact, she said: “I have to make this video.” So I said, “If you get an all-female creative team, the song is yours to make with what you want.” And so she came up with the concept. I could never have made anything half as impactful on my own.
Did witnessing the incident at the bar that inspired the music video change your perspective on what women experience on a daily basis and in life?
I wouldn’t say it changed my perspective, but it certainly deepened it. Seeing such a defiant, powerful act in person – it was just incredibly inspiring. If anything, it made me even more committed to being an ally and being diligent for real-life situations where women are put in danger.
Most music videos cast models and actresses. What was the motivation behind casting real women for the shoot?
The whole point of the video for us was to show that all women have a story to tell and are inspiring just by being who they really are. That’s why we showed them both in their real lives and dressed up as what we really consider them to be: queens. We wanted to find as many women from as many walks of life to represent the fact that every woman is unique, but every woman is connected by the shared challenges faced and adversities overcome.
The women featured in the video are from radically different walks of life. What was it like getting to know them and their experiences?
Put simply, it was one of the most special and inspiring days of my life. They have all become real, true friends. It was just humbling and inspiring to hear their stories and to realize that they rarely get the chance to tell them.
Who are the most important women in your life and what have they taught you?
The two most important women throughout my childhood and young adult life were my mother and sister. If I have any advantage in wanting to listen to and respect women, all of the credit goes to the fact that the women surrounding me from birth were complete badasses. My mom was born before Title IX had really opened up any opportunities for female athletes; she didn’t start running competitively until she was 26, and she ended up being the top-ranked marathoner in the United States and represented our country in the 1988 Olympics. My sister is a genius and a complete stud – she was the captain of the soccer team at Harvard – and is my closest friend and the person I admire most. I don’t know who I would be without them, and I don’t really want to think about it – whatever my flaws and faults are now, I promise they’d be way, way worse without my mom and sister.
The video was directed by Sarah Wilson Thacker and brought together by an entirely female production/creative team. Do you think featuring women behind the camera as well as in front of it is significant in terms of keeping the perspective authentic?
Absolutely. While I do hope to be an ally, this is not my story. It’s theirs, and therefore it is theirs to tell. The beginning and end of my job was to give them the practical tools to tell their stories from their perspective – I literally had nothing to do with the creative process beyond that. And I feel very strongly, with the gift of hindsight, that it was the right choice. No matter the intention, if I had inserted myself into the creative process beyond that, it would have been another man appropriating the stories that belong to someone else. If I learned one thing from this, it’s that the most important way to be an ally isn’t to start with talking or even action; it’s to start with listening.
What do you hope your fans will take away from the video?
I suppose that my deepest hope is that they will, first and foremost, learn more about the specific women featured in the film. I promise that you will come away inspired and more hopeful about the future, knowing not only that people like this exist but that they are all around you, if you only take the time to look, ask, and listen. And beyond that, I hope they realize something that I didn’t fully appreciate: that very seldom are women given full reign to speak without being interrupted, to share their invaluable perspective and have a true voice. For all men, I think it is a moral imperative to step away from the mic, so to speak, and to simply listen.
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Kezar Celebrates Strong Women in New Empowerment Anthem, “Don’t Touch The Queen.” Photo Credit: Catie Laffoon.